Last spring, at a Dalhart Christian Academy (DCA) board meeting, Board President Gideon Jennings said he and his board members were at a crossroads. The academy, founded in 1997 in Dalhart, Texas, was in a financial valley with little resolve.
Those seeds of need produced a harvest of funds for DCA and an opportunity to pay it forward.
“If you’ve ever been a part of a non-profit, you know the money goes up and down, there’s peaks and valleys,” said Jennings. And after 22 years of service, DCA was in a financial low.
“We had a full agenda that night, but we stopped and prayed, ‘God, we really want to start thinking differently about how we handle our finances.’ I challenged the board members to pray about the issue and we all left thinking, ‘this is not good.’”
Reconvening two weeks later, they considered the possibility of having a farm to generate income. But that only raised another question. “Where are we going to get the land?” To which Jennings replied, “I don’t know, but God will provide.”
When the meeting convened, he said, “We all agreed a farm would be the answer though we didn’t have a clue how it was going to work.”
The next morning, while Jennings was sitting in his office, he received a phone call from a farmer, who has close ties to DCA, saying, “I want to donate the land.”
“12 hours later, God answered our prayer,” testified Jennings.
The farmer, who has asked to remain anonymous, donated 122 acres with “good water” north of Dalhart. “It's a great example of faith. This family stepped out and did something that is amazing,” Jennings said.
But the generosity didn’t stop there. The gesture of an anonymous gift spread like a flame to dry twigs. From the seed to the inputs to an agronomist and a custom farmer, all of the inputs were donated.
“We opened up the opportunity for somebody to help and they all jumped on board.”
The only expense not donated was the electricity to run the pump, which will cost the academy about $11,000.
Due to continuous spring rains, the corn wasn’t planted until June 11, “which is really late for the Texas Panhandle. We planted it as fast as we could. As soon as the triticale was silaged, we spread manure, which was donated, and planted. It was really wet, so it kind of got smeared into the ground. We were thinking, ‘Man we are going to have issues.’ But it’s done really well,” Jennings said.
During the summer, when the corn was chest-high, the academy held an ice cream social and prayer meeting at the field. Families gathered to give thanks to God for their donors and their gifts but also prayed for favorable weather and opportunities to use the farm to reach their community, said DCA Public Relations Director Julia Williams.
“My husband is a farmer and we’ve had all kinds of crazy weather on our personal crop this year, but because we planted the school crop late, it’s missed most of the bad weather.”
Jennings said thanks to the irrigation, the crop has held its own, even through summer’s unrelenting heat. Plus, with planting delayed, the corn wasn’t pollinating in the extreme heat; “we were just behind it, so everything worked out,” he added.
PAYING IT FORWARD
While the corn silage is contracted to a local dairy, it’s the two acres of sweet corn that has created an opportunity for DCA students, which range from 3 years old to 8th grade, to pay it forward.
On three occasions, students and their families picked hundreds of ears of sweet corn and distributed them to families in need. Academy students also delivered bags of sweet corn to local churches to give away.
As a farmer’s wife, Williams said she’s proud to be a part of the agricultural community. “It’s a community that is constantly stepping up, both locally and also providing for our country and for our world. I love that the agriculture community is able to connect on yet another level and use farming to advance education and to invest in kids’ lives and to help show the kids how they can make an impact, no matter what field they choose, whether it’s agriculture or something else.”
As a Christian, she says the farm means a lot because God calls us to love our neighbors, “so, being able to help feed the hungry and show God’s love to them through the school, through our own volunteer work, feels like I’m living out the calling God has on all of our lives.”
She is proud, too, of the school where her son is attending Pre-K, “I love that the school has stuck to its mission and donated some of the corn to ministries in the community,” she said. “We like giving back and community service is a central tenant of the school, so to have someone donate to us and for us to be able to pay it forward is really special.”
DCA’s enrollment hit a record this year with 112 students. The school employs 13 full-time teachers, one secretary, and four part-time teachers.